Monday, February 11, 2008
Mira Bai (c.1498-1546)
There are few Hindus who will not have heard of Mira bai, the Rajput princess whose devotional compositions have provided a voice to the spiritual yearning of millions, and have a distinct, even a feminist, emphasis to them. Many stories exist about Mira, and it is difficult to produce a factual account of her life, although she lives perpetually through her songs, famous throughout India/ The following is a shortened account about popular folk-lore about Mirabai:
Born in Rajisthan a land of warriors and sages, sadhus and kings, but also instability and sorrow, Mirabai showed great devotion for Lord Krishna in her childhood years. One day, a holy man came to her family’s palace and was carrying a small image of Krishna. Knowing that Mirabai would appreciate it, her mother brings her the little statue of Krishna. As the wandering sage left the palace he took his image of Krishna with him. Mira bai was very upset – in fact for days she lost her appetite and was very sad. But after a few days the sadhu returned. The night before, he explained, Krishna had appeared to him in a dream, telling him to return the image to Mira!
Mira grew up to be a beautiful young lady, and was duly married to the warrior Prince Bhoj, and went to live at his palace. However, despite being a devoted and dutiful wife, devotion to Lord Krishna was always foremost on her mind, which annoyed the family of her husband. Uda, her sister in law was most annoyed at Mira’s ways. They tried to stop her from visiting the temple. Prince Bhoj came to accept his wife’s nature, and thought of her as a great devotee of the Lord. He built her a small Krishna temple within the palace. However, for company with other devotees, Mira still sought to go to the village temple. She became acquainted with the great saint Ravidas, who was a humble shoemaker by profession, and learnt much about aspects of religion that she did not know about through him. She considered Ravidas her spiritual preceptor (Guru).
Although her in-laws were becoming enraged with her behaviour, several of them could see their was something very special about her. Ravidas is turn was very impressed and moved by the intensity of her devotion to Krishna. He brought her a sitar with his own meager resources, which she used to compose and play soul stirring devotional songs to all who would listen. Through her songs Mirabai’s fame grew exceedingly, spreading far and wide throughout India. Even the Moghul Emporer Akbar came to visit her, and was so moved by her songs that he gave her a precious necklace.
Meanwhile, Prince Bhoj, Mirabai’s husband was killed in battle, against the predatory Moghuls. Bhoj’s cousin seizes the throne, who was one member of the family who had harboured dislike for Mirabai. Finding Akbar’s necklace, he accused Mirabai of being a traitor. He confined her to her room, and ordered her precious image of Krishna to be thrown into the river. She still had her devotion to Krishna, but was distraught at not being able to be amongst her fellow devotees and resented being locked in a confined space. She is believed to have write to Tulsidas, who advised her to attempt to leave, which Mira bai did so. Mira’s sister-in-law, Uda had grown fond of Mira over time and was very saddened by Mira’s departure.
Mira roamed India in devotion to her beloved Lord Krishna. She could see Krishna everywhere and in everything, and her songs describe her rapture in this vision. She grew very famous and loved. This enraged the king, the cousin of Mira’s husband Bhoj’s. He was determined now that Mira should die. Many attempts were subsequently made on Mira’s life, none of which bore fruit, due to her unfathomable love and trust in Krishna.